Lindy Ruff: A Man Of Class

RUFF RAMSEY JUNEAU SYLVESTER HOLZINGER PRIMEAU

On February 20th, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they had relieved Lindy Ruff of his coaching duties. Ruff being fired ended his tenure as the NHL’s longest serving head coach, and second in the four professional sports (Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs was No. 1).  Today, Lindy finally addressed the media two days after being fired.

Just like he entire career, Lindy Ruff defined the word “class” throughout the press conference.

“First, I would like to thank the Knox family for drafting me, and giving me the opportunity,” Ruff said to start the conference. Lindy was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round (32nd pick overall) of the 1979 NHL draft. Lindy would go on to play 10 seasons for the Sabres, and was the team Captain for his final three seasons in blue and gold. Ruff was traded in 1989 to the New York Rangers for a draft pick. Who would the Sabres use that draft pick on? Richard Smelhnik, who would play for several years under Lindy Ruff.

Ruff’s reputation as a player was one Buffalonians love: A tough, hard nosed player with perfect character. An example of Ruff’s toughness came in a game against he New York Islanders in a playoff game on May 10th 1980. Islanders goaltender, Bill Smith, struck Ruff across the head with his stick as Ruff skated in front of his net. Ruff turned around, and without hesitation, tackled him to the ice.

Ruff became an assistant coach for the Florida Panthers from 1993-1997, and was a part of the 1996 Panthers team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost to the Colorado Avalanche.

Ruff was named the 15th head coach of the Buffalo Sabres on July 21st, 1997. Nobody knew a 16 year “Ruff Era” would be born on that Summer day.

Ruff had immediate success in Buffalo. He led the Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season as the head coach, and the year after took them to the Stanley Cup Finals — we all know how that ended. The following two seasons, Ruff would bring Buffalo back to the playoffs. One, a first round exit courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers, and a second round exit the following year by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The next three seasons, Ruff’s team failed to reach the playoffs preceding to the NHL lockout amidst the teams bankruptcy and financial problems due to the Adelphia Communications corporate scandal. After the 2004-2005 lockout, Ruff would lead the Sabres to back-to-back Eastern Conference finals appearances. In ’05-’06 Ruff’s defensive unit was crippled by injury in the Conference Finals, and lost game seven to the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina went on to sweep the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup. The next year, Ruff’s team started out 10-0-0, and would go on to win the Presidents Trophy — the award goes to the best team in the regular season. The Sabres would make it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year, but would be Unknownbounced out by the Senators in five games.

After that, things headed south for Ruff and the Sabres organization. Buffalo failed to reach the post-season in four out of Ruff’s last six seasons, and wouldn’t win a playoff series since the  ’06-’07 Eastern Conference Semi’s against the Ottawa Senators.

One of Ruff’s most memorable moments as Head Coach of the Buffalo Sabres came in February of 2007, “The Brawl”. For those of you who live under a rock, “The Brawl” took place in Buffalo after Chris Neil delivered a cheap shot to co-captain, Chris Drury. Drury would spill blood on the ice, and Neil wouldn’t be called for a penalty. So Lindy decided to take matters into his own hands. The ensuing shift, Ruff sent out Adam Mair, Andrew Peters, and Patrick Kaleta — three of Buffalo’s bad asses. They would be on the ice with Spezza, Heatley, and Mike Comrie. As soon as the puck dropped, all three Sabres players attacked Ottawa’s forwards, and the brawl begun. Ray Emery and Martin Biron would leave their creases, remove their masks, and drop the gloves. Ruff was fined $10,000 for “precipitating” the brawl after Neil’s hit. The City Of Buffalo started to raise money for Ruff so that he wouldn’t have to pay the fine, but Ruff proudly refused the offer — If that isn’t a sign of class, I don’t know what is.

Those were the good days for Ruff, but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The past three seasons, including the 17 games Ruff coached this year, the Sabres underperformed and the fans grew restless. This past Tuesday, the Sabres played host to one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference: the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets beat Buffalo 2-1 and that made Sabre Nation erupt with boo’s, and even chants of “Fire Lindy” started in the 300 level. Ruff explained how he felt after his last game as the Sabres head coach, “To take that step back against Winnipeg, that was a real kick in the gut for me.”

When the game was over, Darcy Regier was walking down the hall of the press box with a look on his face that explained what the future would hold. Lindy would be relieved of his duties.

“I saw him, and I said ‘I know,'” Lindy said this morning, talking about Darcy Regier showing up to his home to deliver the news. “I said, ‘Don’t say your sorry.’ I said, ‘You’ve been my biggest backer all these years.'”

Ruff would go on to thank a long list of people: Owners, assistant coaches and trainer, several players, and the fans.

45521Lindy said he already misses coaching, and will plan on doing it again. He will, however, continue to live in Buffalo, NY.

“It’s a hard tough game,” Lindy explained. “It’s been a strange feeling, but I got to keep going. I love the game.”

He watched hockey last night, and tried watching the Sabres 3-1 loss in Toronto. “I watched one period, and found it incredibly strange,” Ruff said. “I turned it off. It’s something I wanted to, but couldn’t.”

In this predicament, some coaches won’t show respect to the GM let alone praise them. Ruff did just the opposite.

Lindy said of GM Darcy Regier: “I know through 16 years theres probably 99 percent of GM’s in the league that would’ve whacked the coach at a certain time. We went through some tough stretches where he believed in me and said, ‘You can get these guys through it.’ He’s a good friend. He’s a great hockey man. We went through a lot together, an I’m indebted to him for trusting me in a lot of tough situations.”

Ruff saved the last part of his speech to talk about the fans in Western New York.

“The fans of Western New York are No. 1. It really came to the forefront when my I dealt with my daughter’s medical condition, got us through a real tough time in our lives. There was a ‘Thank You’ outside on the fence. I’d like to put my ‘Thank You’ right next to it because it’s a special group. It’s a place I call home, always will call home. I don’t feel like I have anything to be ashamed of or any regrets. Western New York is where I’m going to live. I love Western New York.”

Lindy Ruff had to be fired. It was needed, and we all know that. Aside from the team, the playoffs, the NHL, the media, Lindy Ruff is a class act all the way around. From the amount of criticism he dealt with, to the pressure of winning in this city, to defending his team after taking cheap shot after cheap shot, to officials missing a skate that was clearly in the crease, to his daughters medical condition, Lindy Ruff fought for his team, his family, and this city.

Lindy Ruff, this city will be indebted to you. You’re the definition of class, and you will always be loved in the City Of Buffalo.

Not only are we proud, but we are all extremely lucky to call you a fellow Buffalonian.

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Sabres – Leafs Recap

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Ron Rolston loses his first game thanks to JVR’s two goal performance, as the Maple Leafs beat the Sabres 3-1.

The past 48 hours leading up to this game, the Sabres were the most talked about team in the league after Lindy Ruff was relieved of his coaching duties. Ruff coached the Sabres for 15 seasons. His replacement, Ron Rolston, was the coach of the Rochester Americans this season before he was called on to be the Sabres new head coach. James Van Riemsdyk (JVR) used to play under Rolston for Team USA when he was a junior, and told the media that if it weren’t for Rolston, he wouldn’t be the hockey player he is today. For those of you who don’t know, JVR is a very talented forward and is having a very productive season thus far.

Sabres Defenseman TJ Brennan, who spent a great deal of time in Rochester with Rolston, said that the difference between Ruff and Rolston is that Rolston is more in your face and energetic. Whereas Lindy was more independent.

162307159_stdIn the first period, Buffalo looked like a rejuvenated squad on the ice. The controlled the puck in Toronto’s zone, kept skating, won the physical battles along the boards, and most importantly — weren’t chasing the puck around in their own zone.

Both teams would get their fair share of chances throughout the opening twenty minutes, but Buffalo would capitalize on one of their opportunities 13:20 into the opening period.’

Buffalo lost the draw in their own zone (how many times have we said that this season?) but recovered it after a shot by Bozak never made it’s way to the net. Ennis scooped up the loose puck along the half wall, gently bounced it off the boards for Stafford in the neutral zone, and headed up ice setting up a give-and-go. Stafford saw Ennis all the way, and gave him a nice lead pass into Toronto’s zone. Ennis flew past Gunnarsson, skated to the middle of the left face-off circle, and sniped a beauty to the top left corner to give Buffalo the lead.

The Stafford-Ennis-Foligno line is finally starting to feel it offensively. This is all thank to Stafford. Earlier in the year, Foligno and Ennis were doing their jobs (not to the fullest), but Stafford was nowhere to be found. Ennis does his part getting free and creating rushes, Foligno does his part when it comes to physical play especially around the boards, but Stafford was non existant earlier in the season. His job is to lead that line on the ice, shoot, pass, hit, etc. Now that Stafford is finally getting in a groove and skating much better, this line might go back to it’s old ways from last year. When I say old ways, I mean unstoppable.  Continue reading Sabres – Leafs Recap

Sabres – Penguins Recap

Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, Matt Niskanen

Yesterday was another classic “Buffalo” finish. They’re down 2-0 just two minutes into the game, then they storm back to take a 3-2 lead, and then in the blink of an eye, Pittsburgh steals the game back again.

Buffalo allowed two goals just 1:27 into the game against the best team in the Eastern Conference, so they’re pretty much screwed, right? From what we’ve seen so far this season, all signs pointed to yes. Instead, Buffalo stopped the bleeding in the first period by cutting the lead in half, played their best second period all season, and grabbed the lead in the beginning of the third period.

After that, Buffalo completely lost focus and got lazy. They started to look like the team we’re used to watching: turnovers in their own zone, no offensive pressure, allowing their high skilled players walk in the zone unattested. The Sabres tried to play a prevent defense against a team with an offense that’s somewhat unstoppable. Buffalo lost their mental toughness and watched Pittsburgh take the game away.

In the first period, Pittsburgh played like they were about to put on a clinic on how to win games in less than 90 seconds.

161871254_slideCody Hodgson had the puck when he was skating around the back of his own net, trying to get free to clear the puck out of his own zone. Instead, Pascal Dupuis stripped him of the puck and went in front of the net. Chris Kunitz recovered the loose puck, and fired it to the point for Amherst, NY native, Brooks Orpik. Orpik blasted a shot right at Dupuis in front of the net. Dupuis deflected the shot in-between his legs perfectly, and over Miller’s shoulder to take a 1-0 lead just 35 seconds into the game.

For the amount of traffic in front of the net, I thought Miller put himself in a good position to make the stop. Dupuis deflection, however, was flawless. There’s nothing you can do when you can’t see the puck.

Just 31 seconds after Dupuis’ goal, Tyler Myers would be whistled for high-sticking, which would send out the number two ranked power play on the ice.

Pittsburgh set themselves up in the Buffalo zone with ease. Crosby would gently saucer the puck to Kunitz in the 161862147_slideoffensive zone. Kunitz immediately put the breaks on, and sent a pass to Malkin at the point. Malkin let a blast go that went just wide of the net and off the back wall. Crosby, who was camping out in front of the net, quickly jumped on the rebound and stuffed it just past Ryan Miller.

The Penguins only needed 19 seconds out of their two minute power play to take a 2-0 lead. With that goal, Sidney Crosby now has at least one point in 14 consecutive games against the Sabres.

Down 2-0 in the first two minutes against the best team in the Eastern Conference…the only positive thing the Sabres had going for them was that Pittsburgh gave Buffalo enough time in the first period to possibly get back in the game.

Five minutes after Crosby’s goal, Buffalo started to wake up a little bit and eventually would cut the lead in half.

Jason Pominville dumped the puck in the Penguins zone, which rolled all the way around the boards and to the point for Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff let a blast go that got knocked down in traffic in front of the net. Hodgson fought off Joe Vitale for the loose puck in front, and buried a wrist shot past a stretched out Marc-Andre Fleury.

Cody Hodgson, Marc-Andre FleuryCody Hodgson is tearing it up in front of the net this season. All of his goals have been directly in front of the net, and has created a lot of plays in front as well. He’s one of the best players, if not the best player Darcy’s ever made a move for.

Buffalo would head into the first intermission down 2-1.

In the second period, Buffalo’s offensive lord and savior — Thomas Vanek — would be huge for Buffalo once again.

Sidney Crosby would be called for cross-checking after he shoved Jason Pominville to the ground. On the ensuing face-off, Tanner Glass would be whistled for slashing right as the puck dropped. So just like that, Buffalo had a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes.

Buffalo set up shop in the offensive zone, but couldn’t get a quality scoring chance in the first 90 seconds on the power play. That all stopped when Christian Ehrhoff found Thomas Vanek in front of the net. Ehrhoff sent a hard shot/pass to Vanek who was planted in front of Fleury. Vanek lifted his right leg, and deflected Ehrhoff’s shot through his legs, beating Fleury.

That’s the best second period Buffalo’s had all season. They skated with Pittsburgh for the entire 20 minutes, and got the better scoring chances. They were outshot 11-9, but not all 11 Penguin shots were quality shots on goal. Buffalo had a couple of opportunities in that period where they could’ve headed into the locker room up 3-2.

The third period would start off hot for Buffalo. They came out hungry, and created havoc in front of the net. The Sabres would be rewarded five minutes into the third when Nathan Gerbe set up a goal for Steve Ott.

Ehrhoff had the puck in his own zone when he sent a hard pass to Hecht at center ice. Hecht touched Ehorhoff’s pass up to Gerbe who was already sprinting towards the Penguins zone. Gerbe skated to the middle of the right face-off circle, stopped, and tried getting a shot on goal hoping for a rebound. Instead, the puck was blocked in the slot, but bounced right out to Steve Ott on the opposite wing. Ott had a quick release on his shot, and beat Fleury on the far side.

While everyone was waiting for Drew Stafford to score before he this past Thursday, I’ve been waiting for Nathan Gerbe to get on the score sheet. I understand he battled back from a serious injury, but he’s been in enough games and has had enough opportunities to do something. He’s played well in games, but a lot of the time, he’s missed on some huge chances. It was good to see him get 

After Ott gave Buffalo the lead, Pittsburgh took over. Sidney Crosby

It was almost as if Buffalo had a huge ball of momentum, and just handed it over to the Penguins bench. Instead of handing a fictitious ball of momentum to Pittsburgh, Buffalo would just turn the puck over in their own zone for them. That was their way of handing over the momentum in the game.

Two minutes after the Sabres took the lead, Buffalo would cough it right up.

Pascal Dupuis ripped a shot that got knocked down in traffic. The puck landed right in front of Pominville and Tyler Ennis with Chris Kunitz behind them. Kunitz never stopped moving towards the puck, and pushed it free. The puck got pushed around down low where Leopold would have it, and fan on his clearing attempt. Pittsburgh would recover, and Letang would have it at the point. Letang moved around Pominville, went deep in the zone, and fed a cross ice pass to Dupuis who buried it.

That entire shift was just ugly for Buffalo. The Sabres were out worked for loose pucks, and got lazy when it came to clearing the puck. Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis were straight lazy when Kunitz beat them to the puck. Jordan Leopold’s clearing effort was childish, and it resulted in a goal.

The Penguins would win the game on a play set up by none other, than Sidney Crosby.

161871283_slideDupuis had the puck deep in Buffalo’s zone when he scooped it around the back of the net for Crosby. Crosby took the puck along the half wall, sent it gently to Paul Martin at the point, and headed toward the net. Martin tee’d up Crosby’s pass, and blasted it in the top left corner. Miller never saw the shot.

Alexander Sulzer was the man on Crosby in front of the net. Instead of shoving Crosby, or trying to clear him out of Miller’s way, he stood there whacking at his stick. If you knock him down, and it’s a penalty, it wouldn’t matter. Miller would’ve seen Martin’s long shot from the point the whole way through.

Buffalo’s performance in the second half of the third period was very lazy. They were out hustled, out worked along the boards, and didn’t give Miller any help whatsoever.

The Sabres are now in 12th place in the conference, and are now four points out of a playoff spot.

Notes:

– Sidney Crosby now has at least one point in 14 consecutive games against Buffalo.

– Vanek is the sole Goals leader in the NHL (also the sole leader in points).

– Nathan Gerbe’s assist was his first point of the season.

— Buffalo’s next game is Tuesday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets. This is the first meeting between these two teams this season. Puck drop set for 7:05.

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Sabres – Senators Recap

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The Sabres put on heavy pressure, but Craig Anderson blanks Buffalo 2-0.

The story of the night was Mikhail Grigorenko coming back after being a healthy scratch, and the return of Tyler Myers who was also a healthy scratch, missing two games. The poor play on Defense is the biggest problem Buffalo is having this season, and who would’ve thunk it? The Sabres are so deep at defense, you’d think it’d be their biggest threat.

In Ottawa, Buffalo would play better defensively, hold onto the puck in the offensive zone better, but was better overall. Continue reading Sabres – Senators Recap

Sabres Recall Adam Pardy

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Adam Pardy, who’s played in 183 NHL games, thought he would have a starting job with the defensive unit. With a plethora of defenseman within the organization, he was denied a spot.

Now with injuries to Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr, and the rest of the defense playing horribly, a spot has opened up. Pardy’s name has been called. He has one goal and three points in five games down in Rochester.

The 6 foot 4 226 pounder will play his first game as a Sabre tomorrow night in Ottawa. Ruff has yet to announce who will come out of the lineup.

Pardy will provide reinforcement for a blue line struggling without Robyn Regehr and Andrej Sekera. There’s a good chance that Christian Ehrhoff is hurt, which is the worst news Sabres fans can hear right now. Ehrhoff has been their best defenseman hands down through the first nine games. Lindy Ruff said two of the five players who skipped the optional skate today in Buffalo — Jason Pominville, Cody Hodgson, Steve Ott, Jochen Hecht and Ehrhoff — are doubtful for Tuesday.

Ehrhoff, however, played the entire game Sunday against Florida, including the last shift of the game.

Buffalo has given up 33 goals in their nine games…so they could use Pardy’s help.Pardy1

I’m excited to see what Pardy will bring to the table. I liked what I saw at the Blue/White scrimmage before the season started, and I believe Pardy will be a positive addition to the lineup.

You can’t coach size or NHL experience. If Pardy plays well enough, he’ll stay in the lineup. Let’s face it, nobody on that blue line has really played well enough to stay on the roster with the exception of Christian Ehrhoff.

WGR Sports Radio 550’s Matthew Coller, who cover’s the Amerk’s, made a comment about Pardy via Twitter. — You can follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewWGR

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Sabres – Panthers Recap

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Buffalo’s top line stays hot by grabbing the early lead for the Sabres, but the Panthers score the last three goals of the game to complete their comeback.

After getting embarrassed in Montreal Saturday afternoon, the Sabres had a chance at redemption on home ice when they played host to the Florida Panthers: the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers came into Buffalo 0-5 on the road, and at the time, the worst goal differential record in the NHL at -11. Still, Buffalo found a way to lose the game. Continue reading Sabres – Panthers Recap

Don’t Of The Day

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This is a no brainer. Shawn Thornton, Boston Bruin “Bad Ass” thought it would be a good idea to try and fight John Scott. These two have never actually fought before, but they’ve done their fair share of chirping and $h!t talking in the past before Scott was a Sabre. Anyone from Buffalo will tell you “No.” when you ask them if they’re over the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller last season, and the players know that. It was safe to assume last night that a fight would go down. It was just a matter of who, and by who, I mean who would be fighting John Scott. Shawn Thornton stepped up to the play.

It’s almost as if Buffalo had a “Insert Bruins player to fight John Scott here” sign posted on the boards in front of theirSTON2590.JPG bench. The Sabres, as well as the City Of Buffalo, will never get over Lucic’s hit, and at this point, will take anyone in a black and yellow sweater as retribution. Continue reading Don’t Of The Day